Engineer and YouTuber Mark Rober has created a robot that can make domino murals at lightning speed, and has shown it off with a video of it arranging 100,000 dominoes into a Super Mario Bros.-themed mural in just over 24 hours. Rober says it would take a team of seven humans a week to do the same thing.
The robot, named the “Dominator,” achieves this by putting down 300 dominoes at a time — which are, of course, loaded into it by another robot. Rober says in the video that the current version of the Dominator is the culmination of years of work from him and his team, and he goes into how the device actually works, as well as showing some of the failed designs that led to the final product.
If the name Mark Rober rings a bell, it may be because we’ve covered some of his exploits in the past, from a glitter-powered device meant to deter porch pirates, a giant Super Soaker, a dart-tracking dartboard, and a moving basketball hoop. Helping him build the robot and code the software was a team of three other people. He also enlists domino artist and YouTuber Lily Hevesh to act as a human opponent for the Dominator (a la Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter playing Jeopardy versus IBM’s Watson). You can watch her video to see what it’s like for someone skilled in laying down dominoes to go up against the robot.
Solving “the last centimeter problem” turned out to be very difficult
Rober’s video briefly touches on the robot’s construction, but there’s a series of blog posts written by the team that go into immense amounts of detail on everything from how the project went from idea, to prototype, to robot, how the software and hardware operate, and more. One of the more interesting sections is about the robot’s navigation — it uses GPS for most of it, but it turns out that making the robot align the dominoes correctly without knocking any over in the process took a lot of trial and error. The team ended up using a camera and marker system to solve what it called “the last centimeter problem,” after testing out a few other options.
Of course, one of the most satisfying parts of the video is seeing the 100,000 dominoes get knocked down — a task that also required some engineering work, and that delightfully makes use of a Mario-themed prop. It’s a joy to watch a years-long project like this come together, and while this particular robot may not be capable of doing complex household tasks or delivering pizza (though if it could, it’s obvious which chain it would work for), it can absolutely stack dominoes with the best of them.